Counter to expectations of coevolved parasite–host relationships, parasites frequently infect hosts that never contribute to their reproduction, making the identification of a parasite's true host-specificity problematic. Pseudodelphis oligocotti (Nematoda: Dracunculoidea) infects several coastal Pacific fishes, but its course of development appears highly variable, suggesting that incidence does not reflect effective host range. To determine the host range of P. oligocotti and describe its relationship to various potential hosts, 24 fish species were examined from several British Columbia localities for prevalence, intensity, and extent and tissue location of parasite development. Pseudodelphis oligocotti infects 9 species of fishes from 5 orders, of which penpoint gunnel, Apodichthys flavidus, showed the highest prevalence and intensity, up to 80% and 19 (±17.1 SD) worms per host, respectively. Although subadult and adult P. oligocotti occurred in all 9 fishes, larvigerous P. oligocotti only occurred in A. flavidus and rarely in the northern clingfish, Gobiesox maeandricus. Infective first-stage larvae were recovered from gill tissue of A. flavidus. Thus, at most only 2 of the 9 host species infected by P. oligocotti actually contribute to its transmission. The occurrence of P. oligocotti in diverse hosts may be accounted for by the parasite's indiscriminant mode of transmission via ingestion of free-living intermediate copepod hosts, where highly exposed or more suitable fishes (or both) are closely related by diet and microhabitat. This study demonstrates how parasite transmission and host ecology can greatly affect observed host range and ultimately its potential for expansion.

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